AL nurses OK contract; Austin’s union approved similar deal in April

Published 8:30 am Monday, July 10, 2017

ALBERT LEA — Albert Lea nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association approved a tentative three-year nursing contract on Wednesday with Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin.

The contract includes a 2 percent wage increase in the first year; over three years, Albert Lea nursing wages will match Austin nurses, said Rick Fuentes, a union public relations and social media professional.

The union negotiating team approved the settlement June 21 and sent it to members for a vote, with a full recommendation to approve the agreement, according to the hospital.

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“We welcome the opportunity to work with our dedicated nurses to develop solutions that strengthen our Albert Lea and Austin campuses and secure high-quality care for our patients, now and in the future,” said Mandie Siems, Mayo Clinic Health System public affairs specialist. “Nurses are valued members of our care teams, and we are pleased that both bargaining units approved agreements with the medical center so we can all work together on behalf of our patients.”

According to the hospital, Austin nurses represented by the union approved a similar three-year contract April 5.

Despite the contract, the union is concerned about the possible effects Mayo Clinic Health System’s planned transitioning of most inpatient services from its Albert Lea campus to Austin will have on Albert Lea.

“While they’re pleased to have a new contract, they are very concerned about the impact of losing the full-service hospital in Albert Lea,” said Kathy Sandvik, union labor representative for Albert Lea and Austin nurses. “The entire community, as well as all of the staff there (in Albert Lea) will be affected by the loss. Not just will patients lose the quality care that Albert Lea nurses have provided, but the loss of dozens of jobs will mean displacements, transfers and heartache for Albert Lea nurses and the community itself.”

In a community meeting June 29, Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, disputed a claim made by the union that up to 500 jobs could be lost in Albert Lea from the transition.

“That number is just not based on any type of fact that I am aware of,” he said.

Ciota said though jobs will be shifted to Austin in the short term, he expects future job gains between the two facilities.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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